Setouchi Art Project 2010

There is a great diversity of values in today's society, and the world of expression has moved beyond art and culture to all aspects of human society, including environmental problems. In the same way, in the world of fine art, must also not restrict itself to artistic self-expression, but move beyond the context of fine art to a wider focus that creates new values and roles for itself in society artists must also not restrict themselves to artistic self-expression, but move beyond to a wider focus that creates new values and roles for itself in society..

Recently, there has been a growing worldwide trend of bringing together the creativity of modern art and the power of local cultures as part of efforts to revitalize communities. It came out of a 90s-onward movement seeking to shift artistic expression from the narrow confines of museums, theaters and cultural facilities out into open society. Niigata's Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale began in 2000 is one such example of art's new role; the area's depopulating archetypal Japanese countryside landscapes of terraced rice fields and satoyama forests are being used to demonstrate possibilities for revitalization by using art as a project to connect with the local community, leading to the rediscovery of local history and culture. Art has an ability to intrinsically bring to the fore the latent potential of a community, so a revitalization program involving art and culture can help a declining community rediscover its inherent character and rekindle residents' vitality and sense of civic pride.

Both the Faculty of Art and the Faculty of Music at Aichi University of the Arts participated as a university project in Setouchi Triennale 2010, an international exhibition on the islands of the Seto Inland Sea, a rural area with a shrinking and aging population. Seventy-five established artists from 18 countries were assigned locations on one of seven islands, where they created works with a theme of "restoration of the sea" with the assistance of local residents; the aim was to invigorate the islands through art. A group from our university consisting of mostly sculpture majors began a survey of Setouchi in April 2009. An eleven-member team made up of Faculty of Art and Faculty of Music instructors and graduate students was organized in September; they began working in earnest in October, starting with the development of a basic plan.

Our site was on the island of Megijima, which is about a 20-minute ferry ride from the Port of Takamatsu. This island is considered to be the mythical island of Onigashima, home of the ogres in the Japanese folktale Momotaro. The island is noted for its impressive high stone walls called oote, which protect against strong winds and high tides. Like the other islands in the area, Megishima has suffered from a dwindling and aging population, and less than 200 people currently live there. Renovating one of the unoccupied houses scattered across the island, the project team created MEGI HOUSE as a location for new types of music-art collaborative expressions, to develop a venue to serve as the locus for our own unique creative program: a concert space and gallery for music and various research activities, and a place to interact with residents and enjoy local history and culture.

The renovation started in April 2010. In cooperation with local residents, a team of Faculty of Art instructors and students disassembled a large and small shed on the property and began renovating the main house. Copper plating was laid on the floor and discarded materials were used to raise a curved acoustic wall in the courtyard, while a stage following along a stone wall was fashioned from wooden planks. Over the next three months, some 200 people worked on the project to ready it for the events to start in July. Faculty and students stayed at a nearby guest house, taking turns purchasing needed items and boarding while the renovation work proceeded. To celebrate the completion of the site, around 100 residents gathered on the stage, which expands out from the verandah of the renovated main house into the courtyard, and a local youth group performed the island's traditional Japanese drums. Over the 100 days of the Setouchi Triennale and as part of many events around the island, Faculty of Music members gave piano and electronic organ concerts and classical music recitals, as well as percussion performances while walking around the island, known as matsuRHYTHM. On the final day, a special performance called the "Ocean Fanfare" was held in cooperation with the local wind instrument association, the colorful reverberations reaching out across the waters to other nearby islands.

Aichi University of the Arts has two faculties (Art and Music), and the collaborative expression between them was successful as a unique art project. We live in a time when emotional well-being is often overlooked, so the efforts of art universities, from the perspective of considering the societal role of art, will play an increasingly significant role in invigorating communities and society and the spiritual culture of people. As such, I hope that Setouchi Art Project will continue as a place of extracurricular activity. In closing, I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to the many people who supported and cooperated in this project.